Fact check: Dolly Parton helped fund Modernas COVID-19 vaccine research – USA TODAY

The claim: Dolly Parton was a major funder for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine

Shortly after Moderna announced that its COVID-19 vaccine is 94.5% effective against the virus, Internet users took to social media to give thanks to an unexpected benefactor. 

Facebook and Twitter users flooded the platforms with posts joking that “Jolene” in singer-songwriter Dolly Parton’s hit single should be replaced with the word “vaccine” because she was a major funder of the promising vaccine.

“Dolly Parton was one of the major funders for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, which has proved to be nearly 95% effective in early data,” reads an Instagram post from Occupy Democrats. 

“Why are we not discussing the fact that the vaccine with good news this morning was partly funded by Dolly Parton?” wrote another user. 

Fact check: COVID-19 vaccine recommendations don’t link government aid to immunization

Parton credited for donation

A preliminary report by The New England Journal of Medicine on the Moderna vaccine credits Parton and others for a donation to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. 

Parton announced earlier this year that she would be donating $1 million to the center to help fund research efforts for COVID-19. 

“My longtime friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, who’s been involved in research at Vanderbilt for many years, informed me that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure,” Parton tweeted in April, encouraging her fans to also make a donation.

Abumrad, a physician and professor of surgery, treated Parton after her car crash in October 2013, and the two built a friendship in which they talked about current events and science, according to the Washington Post.

“Without a doubt in my mind, her funding made the research toward the vaccine go 10 times faster than it would be without it,” Abumrad told the Washington Post.

The Vanderbilt Vaccine Center is researching synthetic antibodies that could potentially treat and prevent the virus and the Moderna vaccine was made possible by researchers at Vanderbilt, Emory University and others, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Fact check: Pfizer received COVID-19 vaccine data after Election Day, released within days

A long history of philanthropy

This is hardly Parton’s first venture into giving.

In 1995, Parton launched and founded the Imagination Library to boost literacy among children. The initiative has mailed more than 133 million free books to children, USA TODAY reported.

Her My People Fund gave $9 million to people who lost their homes in fires that took place in 2016 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 

Speaking on BBC’s “The One Show,” Parton said she was “so excited” to hear the news about the Moderna vaccine and “felt so proud to have been part of that little seed money that will hopefully grow into something great and help to heal this world.”

On Tuesday, Parton tweeted about her donation, saying that when she donated the money, she “just wanted it to do good” and hopes “we can find a cure real soon.” 

Fact check:Ticketmaster exploring tech to provide fans’ COVID status before events

Our rating: True

The claim that Dolly Parton helped fund Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is TRUE. Parton announced her $1 million donation back in April because of her friendship with a doctor. A report by the The New England Journal of Medicine credits Parton as a supporter of the research in the footnotes, and she has a long history of philanthropy. 

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.